Written by Alex Yeung
After our interesting visit to Peking University meeting with their students and faculty, we made our way to the Beijing Olympic park, home of the Beijing National Stadium and Beijing National Aquatic Center. Better known as the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, these sites were witness to historic events in 2008 during the Summer Olympic and Paralympic games. As a big sports fan, I followed the Olympic Games closely in 2008, and had looked forward to checking out these sites.
First up was the Bird’s Nest stadium. I discovered that the seemingly random and messy design was actually created to help hide the columns that would support a retractable roof on the stadium, although this feature was later removed while the “bird’s nest” design was kept. Our connection in China, Cyrus, was able to get us into the stadium for free while skipping the long lines, which was a nice little bonus.
With no actual events taking place that day, the stadium was open to the public, so we were able to move down to the first rows in the stadium, which provide a breath-taking view. It was great to finally stand where triumphs such as Usain Bolt’s record setting victories and tragedies such as Liu Xiang pulling out of the 110M hurdles due to injury took place.
Nowadays, the stadium hosts occasional soccer matches on its natural grass, in addition to concerts and operas. Occupancy is quite low, as their initial regular tenant, Chinese league soccer team Beijing Guo’an, pulled out of an agreement to play their home games in the stadium as they did not want to play in the 80,000 seat facility while drawing 10,000 fans per game.
A significant portion of the stadium’s revenues now come from visitors paying 50RMB each to visit. Another interesting revenue stream is on the stadium field. There they have Segway scooters available for rent for 200RMB per 20 minutes. Those interested can rent a Segway, and motor around the track where history was made. The price was a bit too steep for me, but the people who were on the Segways did look like they were having a lot of fun.
Next we went across the street to the Water Cube, which was actually shut down after the Olympics to be converted partially into a water park. We walked around the grounds and saw the water park, which I would say rivals the water park at Canada’s Wonderland, despite being indoors. The other half remains a swimming pool and diving pool, but much smaller than before. Prior to the conversion, the Water Cube could sit 17,000 fans, but now it is closer to 7,000. Hard to believe that it had already been five years since Michael Phelps put on the greatest Olympic performance ever in that pool (or rather half of it).
It was an excellent experience and I highly recommend everyone check it out!!